Murkowski Announces Legislation Focused on Improving Alaska’s Trail System
Bill Will Enhance Alaska’s Public Lands and Trails
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) delivered remarks at the Alaska Trails statewide conference where she announced the upcoming introduction of new legislation recognizing the incredible trail systems throughout the state.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a detrimental effect on Alaskan’s health and our state’s economy and has hit our small communities dependent on seasonal tourism especially hard. Despite all that, one of the positives to pull from this time is that we have deepened our appreciation for Alaska’s great outdoors. The positive impact Alaska’s outdoors spaces can have on our economy, public health, and well-being cannot be understated. I look forward to introducing these two bills to further improve Alaska’s already incredible outdoor recreation opportunities.”
The Chilkoot Trail is a 33-mile hiking trail connecting Dyea, Alaska, to Lake Bennett, British Columbia, which served as a Tlingit trade route prior to the gold rush. Senator Murkowski’s first bill will designate the Alaska section (~16 miles) of the Chilkoot Trail as a National Historic Trail.
“This designation is long-overdue, and will pay homage to those who traveled this trade route during the Klondike Gold Rush. The first and only National Historic Trail designation was in 1978 and is the Iditarod trail. I am excited at the prospects of adding one of my personal favorite backpacking trails, connecting two communities and countries to the list.”
The Alaska Long Trail is a proposed 500-mile route connecting Seward and Fairbanks. Senator Murkowski’s second bill will require a feasibility study to be conducted on whether to designate the Alaska Long Trail as a National Scenic Trail.
“America has eleven national scenic trails, most of which you’d recognize, such as the Appalachian Trail, or the scenic Pacific Crest Trail. Alaska Trails, and many others have been advocating for the Alaska Long Trail for years. It makes perfect sense for this proposed trail to garner national attention, recognition, and support through a scenic trails designation.”
“Alaska is long overdue to provide a long trail matching the great long trails of the world. Long trails have a near-magical power to attract interest and use, and their popularity is soaring worldwide. The proposed Alaska Long Trail would provide what more and more residents and travelers are seeking: the direct, active, intimate experience of Alaska’s unmatched mountains, glaciers and wildlife, be that for an afternoon walk or a multi-day adventure. If just half of a typical year’s out-of-state travelers had reasons to spend one more days in Alaska, the result would be an additional $137 million in annual spending in our state. Alaska Trails, the statewide non-profit, is working with a broad bipartisan group of partners to create this system of trails, linking spectacular Alaskan landscapes and communities from Fairbanks to Seward, attracting and inspiring Alaska residents and people from all over the world,” Chris Beck, Alaska Trails Initiative Program Coordinator.
Senator Murkowski has long advocated on behalf of Alaska’s National Parks and public lands. She has been a strong supporter of the Iditarod, which is run on Alaska’s only national trail, the Iditarod National Historic Trail.
In April 2021, the Department of the Interior (DOI) released funding for the 165 deferred maintenance projects across the U.S. – including seven projects in Alaska – allocated by the fiscal year 2020 Interior Appropriations from the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund (LRF). Additionally, the U.S. Forest Service funded 40 different projects in the Chugach and Tongass National Forests out of the LRF. Permanent funding for the stateside LWCF program and the establishment of the LRF were included in the Great American Outdoors Act, legislation which Senator Murkowski helped shepherd into law in August 2020.
In December 2020, as Chairman of the Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, Murkowski included robust funding in the year end funding bill package for investing in infrastructure improvements on federal lands, operations in our nation’s parks, and recreation access programs.
In the 116th Congress, Senator Murkowski as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resourced Committee, played a pivotal role in crafting the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, formerly known as the Natural Resources Management Act. The bipartisan legislation contained more than 120 public lands, resources, sportsmen, conservation, and water management bills and was signed into law in March 2019. That legislation permanently authorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund and prioritized dedicated funding for recreational access.